Saturday, June 24, 2000

A Deconstruction of Genius

I was watching that guy David Blane on TV the other night. You know the guy, the one who froze himself for a few days and then came out of the ice at the end of his most recent ABC special, creatively titled “David Blane: Frozen in Time”. I have a different title for his special: “David Blane: Freakin’ Genius”.

As I watched this man being pulled out of a block of ice to the roaring applause of his faithful fans I realized that he has made a business of doing nothing. And a damn good business too. Last year he buried himself alive for a week in New York, this year he took on a challenge and stood for three days. In essence the guy is seeing how he can do absolutely nothing and make a media frenzy about it. I do nothing for days at a time and I don’t see the local news beating down my door. There are a few people standing outside cheering, but they are just placing bets on whether my neighbor is going to fall off the roof again while cleaning the rain gutters. I unselfishly allow him the spotlight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love David Blane. And not only because he has gone pro at a sport at which I am obviously but an amateur. He is an amazing magician, the only brilliant one of his generation, and probably the generation before him as well. Because lets face it, David Copperfield doesn’t come off as brilliant as much as he comes off as just a kinda freaky guy with a good lighting technician. Blane doesn’t even have a lighting technician and he can still make a stranger’s name appear on his stomach or put the head back on a dead chicken. (I tried this trick, but I don’t think it works after the chicken is already Kentucky Fried) Yet instead of the media reports about Blane stating, “Master Magician Mystifies Many” the report says, “Dude freezes himself”. Because why be extrodanary at something extrodanary when you can just excel at the most mundane activities. I can just imagine the pitch meeting for his current “stunt” (aka: activity of non-movement)

Big Wig Studio Guy: So David, what great magic tricks do you have planned for your next special? Are you going to levitate again, or maybe read people’s minds or I know, how about you bring Elvis back to life like you can with those dead birds?

David Blane: Actually I was thinking of just standing in a block of ice for three days.

Big Wig Studio Guy: Brilliant! We’ll put it on against Survivor!

Not that his special didn’t have a lot of his amazing magic tricks. But we only got to one every now and then, before we hurried back to get a live shot of him standing in the ice. “He’s still standing there, we’ll be back after this commercial break, don’t touch that dial.” And I didn’t touch my dial. Because I really needed to know if he had survived his feat of doing nothing for THREE SOLID DAYS. There was a story about a Holocaust survivor on Dateline, but David’s harrowing tale was much more interesting and suspenseful. Would he make it out the ice? Would he still have his wits about him? Would he tell us how he survived without cable for THREE SOLID DAYS? Screw Dateline, this was history in the making.

As it turned out David did make it just fine (sigh), although he was weak and immediately had to be sat down. Because, as I have maintained for years, doing nothing takes a lot of energy. The crowd roared for the disoriented magician before he was whisked off in an ambulance, presumably to the nearest television with cable. And while watching TV he would probably be thinking about his next big stunt. And it would come to him like a piece of ice down your pants – He will buy a Direct TV system and challenge himself to watch every single channel, even the Japanese stations and the ones that play Martha Stewart 24 hours a day.

It would be called, “David Blane: Doing Nothing Again”. Pure genius. The people over at Survivor are already worried.